Monday, August 26, 2013


Every once in a while, a cookbook comes along that just strikes you as something you've needed for a very long time. THE KITCHEN PANTRY COOKBOOK: Make Your Own Condiments and Essentials (Quarry Books; July 2013; ISBN: 978-1-59253-843-0) arrived on my doorstep at the perfect moment. My garden is raining tomatoes, and I have been so wanting to make my own homemade red wine vinegar. Erin Coopey, a chef, writer and food photographer based in Seattle, has created an excellent collection of recipes for all kinds of condiments, nut butters and spreads, ketchup and mustards, salad dressings, stocks, relishes and refrigerator pickles, and chips, dips and dunks.

Sure you can buy most of these condiments and our refrigerators are stuffed to overflowing with commercially processed mustard's, ketchup's, barbecue, Worcestershire, cocktail, and steak sauces, lemon curds, bottled salad dressings, relishes, pickles, salsas and hummus. But so many of them are really easy to make, if you know how. Homemade tastes better--I guarantee it, and is lot healthier too. In this attractive and well-photographed cookbook, Chef Coopey tells you how.

Homemade vinegar from THE KITCHEN PANTRY COOKBOOK aging in a dark and warm space

I tried to make red wine vinegar without a "mother" when I first moved to my Portland home four years ago. I followed instructions perfectly, but it never became vinegar, and after six months of looking at the wine, which refused to ferment, I tossed it out. I purchased a mother (from a local store specializing in canning supplies), and I hope to have my own vinegar in a few short months. It's time to make pickles, and the recipe for Nell's Mustard Pickles looks so easy. So does the Corn Relish, which I will make this weekend. I like the idea of making my own mayonnaise for special occasions and instead of having a lot of unused Mayonnaise, Chef Coopey's version makes one cup. Whatever isn't used, can serve as the basis for her excellent Tarter Sauce, which is vastly superior to any commercial version. There are seven different recipes for mustard, and homemade Ketchup is made vibrant with cinnamon, cloves, allspice and black pepper and dispenses entirely with corn syrup that is found in its commercial alternative. While it has a shorter shelf life, you'll want to have it on hand for those backyard barbecue socials featuring your favorite burgers.

In our time-stressed lives, we all rely on canned and cartoned meat and vegetable broths for cooking. But stocks from scratch are full of flavor. The chapter on stocks, including flavor boosters such as Chicken and Beef Glace is very well organized and clearly written.

Finally, salsas and dips have a fresher taste and appeal than those bought at your local supermarket. French Onion Dip, Scallion Dip, Herb Dip, Blue Cheese Dip and Clam Dip, were created to be scooped up with Homemade Potato Chips, Sweet Potato Chips, Root Vegetable Chips, and Pita Chips--all of them are included here. There are Tomatilla and Roasted Tomato Salsas, along with Middle Easter favorites, such as Hummus, Baba Ghanoush and Moroccan-Spiced Bean Dip.

Nearly every recipe has it's own gorgeous color photo, and the flexible binding of the book makes it easy to lay opened. In fact this highly attractive cookbook would make a very fine hostess gift.

I have a section of my extensive cookbook collection for favorite cookbooks I use all the time. This new volume will now join that elite group. Everybody love condiments, and THE KITCHEN PANTRY COOKBOOK is the perfect and practical guide to the category.

Easy Relishes and Pickles from THE KITCHEN PANTRY COOKBOOK

Sweet Pickle Relish
Bring on the hot dogs!

Yield: Makes one 1-pint (475 ml) jar

1 pound (455 g) pickling cucumbers (about 4 or 5), washed and cut into large chunks
1/4 red bell pepper, washed and seeded
1 medium-size onion, quartered
4 teaspoons (20 g) kosher salt
1 1/3 cups (315 ml) boiling water
1/4 teaspoon mustard seed
1/8 teaspoon celery seed
3/4 cup (150 g) sugar
1/2 cup (120 ml) distilled white vinegar

Place the cucumbers, red pepper, and onion into a food processor and pulse until the vegetables are evenly chopped and a fine relish consistency. For a coarser consistency, you can dice the vegetables small by hand.

In a medium-size nonreactive mixing bowl, combine the finely chopped vegetables, salt, and boiling water. Let stand for 1 hour. Drain well before using.

Place the drained vegetables and remaining ingredients in a medium-size, nonreactive saucepan. Bring to a boil over high heat and then lower the heat and simmer, uncovered, until the mixture is thickened and most of the liquid has evaporated, about 20 to 30 minutes. Stir occasionally.

When the relish has finished cooking, transfer it into a sterilized pint (475 ml) jar, refrigerate until cool, and then cover. Store in the refrigerator for up to 2 months.

Note: For a true sweet pickle relish consistency, I prefer to chop by hand, but using the food processor definitely saves time

Recipe courtesy of Quarry Books